Running helps keep us whole, even when everything around us seems to be cracking. Brian Metzler gives his take on running in uncertain times at the JackRabbit Blog.




By Brian Metzler

'What? The Boston Marathon is being postponed?'

'Argghhh!!!! I trained all winter and I am in the shape of my life! I booked a non-refundable airline ticket and hotel reservation!'

That was a real social media post on March 12 as the U.S. was coming to grips with the full impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus) sweeping across the country. While most people have understood the notion that canceling or postponing
marathons, triathlons and trail running races — not to mention hundreds of basketball, hockey and soccer games, plus recreational programs, school sports and community events — was in the best interest of the public, it was also hard not
to understand the inherent frustration, too.

As runners, the latter part of winter and the early part spring is always filled with anticipation and excitement. It’s an annual rite of passage filled with hopes, dreams and goals.
So to miss a race after all the training we have done is certainly depressing. Think of the endless miles we logged through the dark, cold months of winter … getting up early to train … the grueling speed workouts!

'DOH! The hotel reservations and airline flights!'

Take a deep breath. This isn’t about you. But it is still about running.

Remember, running is about the journey, not the destination. And that journey is a winding road. And it always has been— amid injuries, illness,
work, family and a variety of life-changing situations — but that’s one of the reasons we keep running. Running helps keep us whole, even when everything around us seems to be cracking.

And yes, it can still provide that boost
even amid the disappointment of not being able to run the Boston Marathon, the NYC Half Marathon, the Lake Sonoma 50 or even the local St. Patty’s Day 5K race with free green beer.

While we advise you to follow guidelines from
the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state, regional and local authorities, we’d also recommend you maintain your running for the many benefits it can bring you
on a daily basis.

1. Just run.
The beauty of running is that it can insulate you from just about everything that happens in your daily life and can give you a physical, mental and emotional boost every
time you lace up your kicks. When life gets tough, you can rely on running. And if you’re healthy today, then today is a good day to go for a run. Don’t fret about races you had hoped to run or the PRs you hoped to shatter. Just run.

It doesn’t matter how long or fast you run, just go out and enjoy running for both the calm and the energy it can bring to your day.

2. Go trail running.
It doesn’t really matter where you go for
your daily run, but running on a trail amid this stressful time in the world can provide an exhilarating and soothing release. Getting off the beaten path in a natural environment — no matter if it’s at a suburban park or a remote mountain
trailhead — will immediately help you wash away the stress of everyday life, including anxiety about the coronavirus, the economy and that race you missed.

Don’t worry about how fast you’re running, just enjoy the moment, the
scenery and the escape.

3. Run with friends (but keep your distance) 
Yes, large public gatherings are discouraged because of the acutely contagious nature of coronavirus, but running with a small group
of people can be decidedly low-risk if you mind a few simple details.

For starters, avoid pre-run hugs and post-run high fives. Don’t share water bottles. Also, mind the concept of “social distancing” and run with more space
between you and your running buddies and, by all means, avoid sneezing, spitting, coughing or snot-blasting on each other — yeah, um, those are things you should avoid anyway! — and you’ll keep your risk low while still sharing
the effort, purpose, passion and community of running.

4. Sign up for a fall race.
If you had planned to run a race that was just canceled, refocus your motivation to a late summer or fall race. Chalk up
the time, effort and money you’ve already committed as an investment in your health and realize that your training put you in a better place to endure any illness that you might encounter. For now, focus on being healthy and fit with the
notion that you can have great results later this year.

Running is a journey and the journey doesn’t end after you run a goal race. That’s the moment it begins again.

5. Run a time trial on your own.
OK, if you really feel like racing, set up your own personal time trial. If your 5K, 10K or half marathon was canceled, set up a loop course somewhere near where you live and run an all-out effort as if it was a race. Bust out your Nike
Vaporfly Next% or Brooks Hyperion Elite and let ‘em rip.

You can simulate your own aid stations by stashing water bottles and gels. Set a goal, track your splits and mark your finishing time. Celebrate if you run faster than
you expected and then use the same course as a benchmark of your progress throughout the rest of the year.

Running Matters

6. Train better.
Yes, it’s disappointing to have missed your race. But were you really as fit as you could be? Chances are you missed workouts, lacked sufficient sleep, weren’t as diligent about following a strength routine
and didn’t log all of the mileage prescribed by your training plan, running group or coach. Hey, it happens! Life getting in the way is part of the journey. Take what you learned from your most recent training block and understand how
you can improve upon it for your next race.

Now is a good time to tweak life-habits, kick-start your motivation and galvanize your approach to training.

7. Train for an ultra-distance race.
not shoot for the moon? For the short-term, focus on staying healthy and maintaining your running. But consider taking a long-term view to and focusing on something big. How big? How about an ultra-distance race like a 50K, 50-miler, 100K
or 100-miler?

Making the jump to ultras takes time, effort and a gradual progression from where you are now. If you put a long-term goal of running a new distance next summer, you’ll be able to put yourself on a path
to success.

8. Try something different.
If you’ve been running for a long time (or even if you haven’t), you’ll find that running can be fickle. It’s easy to develop bad habits, wind up on a training plateau
or just get bored. Those are the times you need to shake it up a bit. Maybe it’s time to do something completely different. For example, you can your passion for running and your current fitness to train for a triathlon or a Spartan Race.

9. Invest in new shoes.
No, this is not a shameless plug to buy shoes. This is a call to action to invest in your health. In simple terms, happiness is a pair of new running shoes. What does that mean? It
means that you have invested money into something that’s going to contribute to positive health gains, future accomplishments and loads of simple everyday joy.

A new pair of shoes can take you hundreds of miles, but it’s where
that new pair of kicks can take you that’s important.

10. Enjoy the journey.
Running is all about the journey, the long and winding journey that parallels and interacts with the ebb and flow of your life.
Make running your daily affirmation of positive energy — especially during challenging or stressful moments in your life — and you’ll give yourself a stable platform to balance your life even if everything else seems to be going haywire.

Know that the journey will always include highs and lows, good times and bad, but, if you keep running, the journey will never end


Brian Metzler is the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” (2019, VeloPress). He has run races at every distance
from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado. 

He's the founding editor
of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He's the author of “Running Colorado's Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running:
The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian's Approach for Every Runner.”


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